Monthly Archives: June 2007

BOOK BEAT 47 – Len Solo

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   June 20-26, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

Is there a more perfect name for a poet than Solo? What name better fits the solitary author of lyric and narrative poems? Perhaps Dr. Leonard E. Solo had no real choice in the avocation that has occupied him since he was an undergraduate at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. Through his graduate work at the University of Massachusetts, through post-graduate studies at Harvard, and through his long years as a teacher, administrator, and consultant, Len Solo was also a poet. For this wintertime Naples resident (Massachusetts is otherwise home), the name’s the thing.

In the late 1960s, when Solo was teaching high school, he struck up a relationship with one of his students, Steve Weitzman (known as “Mud”). They wrote some poems together and critiqued one another’s work. They kept in touch, and in the early 1990s considered publishing a book together. Nothing came of it, and they lost contact.

By 2001, as Solo started writing more regularly, he came back to the idea of publishing a collection that combined Mud’s poems and his own. But now he could not find Mud, and their favored title, “The Spirit of the Seasons” (capturing the seasonal organization of the collection), was already taken. By 2003, Solo had added more poems and made structural changes. The collection was brought out by PublishAmerica in 2004 as “Landscape of the Misty Eye,” Solo trusting that his vanished friend, whom he listed as co-author, would not object. Solo found Mud last year, and the former student was “pleasantly astounded to see the book, which he likes a great deal.”

In another year, Solo found that he had written enough poems for a solo (no pun intended) collection. “Rooted in Place” (2006, also from PublishAmerica) is organized into three sections, each focused on one of the three main places that he has lived. One of these sections grows out of his experiences of six winters in Naples. There is also a temporal arrangement, moving from poems of youth to those of maturity and old age.

As a poet, Solo values directness and accessibility and shuns the academic. In plain language, he strives to surprise and delight his readers. He has mastered the conventions of traditional poetry and uses them when he needs to, but his work is best characterized as free verse.

Solo and his wife, Deanna, have a condo near the intersection of Route 41 and Rattlesnake Hammock. “Why Naples?” he writes, in answer to my question. “We have friends who got there first; we have an absolutely beautiful spot (small condo, friendly people, nice garden and pool in front, grass and trees in the back with a canal, birds, etc.). The weather is great and I’ve come to hate New England winters.” He also enjoys being near the ocean, the multitude of good restaurants, the art shows, the Thursdays on Third music festivals, and the seafood and music at Stan’s Idle Hour restaurant in Goodland. Solo also values the flatness of the Florida terrain, which makes it easy to walk and bike.

Solo says that he takes his cue as a writer from something Hemingway had expressed about trying to capture the sequence of motion and fact and in doing so creating the emotion. This busy poet has finished about forty new poems since “Rooted in Place” came out. I’m guessing that it won’t be long before he puts together another book.

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club.

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BOOK BEAT 46 – Janet Evanovich

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times    June 13-19, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

Janet Evanovich needed a “mud season” house. She had a house in New Hampshire and a condo in Boston, but she wanted to get away from the extreme cold and the messy thaw that follows. After driving around Florida and rejecting many other locations, she settled on Naples for several reasons. Key West was too inaccessible, and Evanovich didn’t feel that she had had enough plastic surgery to qualify for Palm Beach. Naples excited this best-selling author immediately.

A very busy and disciplined writer (she is up and writing at 4:30 each morning), Evanovich doesn’t spend much time preparing meals. So, a large assortment of outstanding restaurants is a must, as are easy travel connections, a full range of services, and the sense of living in a real town with a distinctive character. After a few short years, Naples became her primary residence. For Evanovich, Naples is the place where she does not have to make the choice between having a life and pursuing all of her writing projects. She can have it all. 

We know Janet Evanovich best for her enormously popular Stephanie Plum crime novels, a series about a bounty hunter and her hilarious, suspenseful adventures. Though Evanovich was already a successful writer (primarily of romance fiction) before she invented Plum, this series broadened her readership enormously and placed her firmly on the best-seller lists.

Success breeds demand, and Evanovich is riding the crest of a wave as she builds a brand name by authoring reliably entertaining novels. For the past two years, she has brought out seven books a year. These include not only novels in the Plum series, but also titles in others series, some of which are collaborative endeavors, and also reprints of earlier works for which her fame has assured a new readership. In fact, collaboration – enjoyable in itself – provides an opportunity for her to meet the demand for more books with her brand name on them.

The latest Stephanie Plum installment, “Lean Mean Thirteen,” comes out in hardcover on June 19, but Evanovich sent it in only two weeks before our sit-down (on May 10). Not many writers could get away with this – but a dependable best-seller can. It follows after a special hardcover Plum Valentine’s Day Novella, “Plum Lovin’,” published in January; a hardcover omnibus “More Plums in One” (Plum titles number four, five, and six) published in April; and another April title, the paperback original “Hot Stuff,” co-authored with Leanne Banks.

Also on June 19 comes the paperback of the Plum “Twelve Sharp,” to be followed in late July by the paperback of “Motor Mouth.” And, if the bookstores have room, these titles will be joined in the fall by “No Chance,” Evanovich’s first collaboration with Stephen J. Cannell, and by “The Grand Finale,” the re-release of a pre-Plum romance.

This South River (New Jersey) High School graduate and Douglass College art major was not an instant success as a writer. Many manuscripts were rejected by publishers and agents before Evanovich (as Steffie Hall) hit with a title in the now-defunct “Second Chance at Love” line. Then she published regularly with the Bantam Loveswept imprint. Eventually, Evanovich decided that she wanted to enter the world of crime fiction, and, after two years of brainstorming and research, she invented Stephanie Plum.

Evanovich has no illusions about being or becoming a hi-brow writer. The immediate past president of the Mystery Writers of America, she means to be entertaining to a wide variety of readers. People who read literary fiction can switch off to an Evanovich novel for something light. “People who only watch television can read my books,” she says. “They are really television substitutes. I design them that way.”

Find out more about this amazing writer and “Lean Mean Thirteen” at, a website that receives millions of hits a month and which the author believes is critical to her success, keeping her in touch with her readers and keeping her readers in touch with each other. Designed and run by her daughter, the website has helped generate an electronic family of devoted Evanovich readers, who return often to enjoy its changing content, contests, and Evanovich news. The website helps prepare the anticipation for each new book. When I checked on May 29, three weeks before its release, “Lean Mean Thirteen” was already the #23 best seller on and #13 on

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club.

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